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Legendary Irish jockey Pat Smullen dies aged 43 after cancer battle

Legendary Irish jockey Pat Smullen dies aged 43 after cancer battle
© Reuters
Derby-winning rider was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018.

Nine-times Irish champion jockey and multiple Classic-winning rider Pat Smullen has died at the age of 43.

Smullen, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018, died at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin on Tuesday evening.

His initial treatment had been positive, but he suffered a relapse and was forced to abandon plans to ride in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh in September last year – an event that proved an overwhelming success.

Born in County Offaly, on May 22, 1977, Smullen, the son of a farmer and who became involved with horses at the age of 11, went on to form a formidable alliance with master trainer Dermot Weld, taking over in 1999 from another riding great – Mick Kinane.

Among their greatest triumphs was the Derby at Epsom in 2016 with Harzand. The pair went on to secure the Irish Derby and cement the legacy of a rider who enjoyed his first victory at Dundalk on June 11, 1993.

Smullen leaves wife Frances and their three children – Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.

Pat Smullen (left) with Lester Piggott and Mick Kinane
Pat Smullen (left) with Lester Piggott and Mick Kinane (PA)

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, told the PA news agency: “Pat was one of our greatest stars. He was nine-times champion jockey, but in many ways his greatest achievements were out of the saddle.

“Since his diagnosis, he did wonderful work fund-raising for charity and he battled this disease with great heart and it’s hard to believe he has passed at such a young age. All our thoughts are with Frances and his three children, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and all his friends and colleagues in the weighing room.

“It’s a really sad day for Irish racing. Pat was one of the finest men you could hope to meet. There’s been such a reaction around Irish racing and such a degree of shock, which shows the high regard in which Pat was held.

“He was a pleasure to have anything to do with – his achievements in the saddle were one thing, but his qualities outside of it were something else.

“He was a global figure in racing, but his reaction to his diagnosis and the fund-raising he did last year in particular was really wonderful.

“It’s just a sad, sad day.”

Sir Anthony McCoy with Pat Smullen at the Curragh last year
Sir Anthony McCoy with Pat Smullen at the Curragh last year (Niall Carson/PA)

The charity race at the Curragh came exactly a year ago and was won by Sir Anthony McCoy aboard the Sheila Lavery-trained Quizical.

Paying his tribute, McCoy said: “Devastated, there’s no words. It’s hard to believe his amazing charity race was a year ago today. Heartbreaking.

“Thinking about Fran, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah. RIP champ.”

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